Appointment surprise for new bishop

Bishop-elect of the Dunedin Catholic diocese Fr Michael Dooley in the St Joseph's Cathedral chapel. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Bishop-elect of the Dunedin Catholic diocese Fr Michael Dooley in the St Joseph's Cathedral chapel. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The role was bestowed on Fr Michael Dooley without his knowledge, and came as something of a shock.

But the new Catholic Bishop of Dunedin said the support he had received had eased him into his new job.

Fr Dooley was named yesterday as the seventh Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, taking over from Bishop Colin Campbell following his retirement.

His reaction to the news was one of some trepidation.

''I felt a bit sick for a start.

''But then I thought 'No, I've been chosen to do it'.

''I'd have been quite happy if someone else had been chosen.''

He had had so many messages of support from people across the diocese he had been given ''great heart''.

''That's been a great help.''

Fr Dooley's new role means he is in charge of the whole Otago-Southland region, ''from Bluff to Oamaru''.

He said yesterday once the church began considering who the next bishop would be, names were put forward and information gathered.

People were asked for their comments and three names were sent to Rome.

One of those was selected, and the appointment made by Pope Francis.

The process was completed without anyone telling those considered for selection.

''The first I heard was when I got the ring to say 'You've been appointed as bishop'.

''It sounds a bit strange, but it's done to stop lobbying.

''It's a historical thing.''

The idea was to stop people lobbying for the job, instead, leaving it in the hands of others.

''Instead of you putting in a CV, everyone else puts in a CV for you.''

Fr Dooley (56) was ordained in 1989, after being born in Invercargill and schooled at Heddon Bush School and Central Southland College.

He completed an apprenticeship and worked as a fitter and turner before studying for a bachelor of theology degree at the University of Otago, and then a master of theology in Melbourne.

That change for the man who had always been a Catholic came about after a priest suggested he go to a retreat for young men interested in the priesthood.

''I sort of resisted, but I went to the retreat.

''I had the sinking feeling that perhaps this is something I needed to follow up.''

The sinking feeling, he said, was due to concerns about requirements such as public speaking.

''I didn't think I was a suitable candidate at all

''In the engineering workshop you didn't need to do too much public speaking.''

Fr Dooley said the diocese in the South ''has never really been big'', but it produced good people.

While numbers had been static, the church was in good health.

Immigrants from countries such as the Philippines and India were bolstering numbers.

''They're an area of real life.''

He said there were no major problems to tackle in his new role.

''It's really just consistently working at encouraging people and having a faith community that nourishes people.''

In terms of his social thinking, he said he related to Pope Francis' view of the church and its place in the world.

''Rather than being a fortress mentality, it's an idea of engaging with the world, and a positive message of what we can offer, like the gospel, to people in their everyday lives.''

He agreed with the recently appointed Anglican Bishop of Dunedin, the Rt Rev Dr Steven Benford, in his opposition to euthanasia.

Dr Benford said recently he opposed the End Of Life Choice Bill.

''I think that's a major issue, and a major concern for society,'' Fr Dooley said.

Helping the vulnerable in society, the poor, or those with poor health, was what Pope Francis concentrated on.

''That is definitely what he would want us to be more concerned about.''


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